CHATHAM, Mass. – Land Rover labels the Defender the brand’s toughest 4×4 and when presented in its flagship Carpathian Edition, this means V8 power, enhanced off-road capability, unique body color and an extensive list of amenities added to the iconic sport utility.

And, to add to its lore, it was Defenders which were the favored personal vehicles of the British Royal Family for the past seven decades.

We spent a delightful week in a 2023 Defender 90 Carpathian Edition, enjoying the commanding views from the high seating position while riding in comfort, secure in the knowledge that regardless of the road conditions, if any vehicle could manage them, it was this one.

Land Rover describes the Carpathian Edition as “designed to be the ultimate expression of performance, durability and design, and represents the very pinnacle of the Defender range.”

Finished in Carpathian Grey premium metallic paint, the vehicle’s exterior is distinguished by a Narvik Black contrast roof, hood, and tailgate.

“The unique exterior is finished with Land Rover Satin Protective Film. The recyclable PU-based wrap is applied to external bodywork giving the 4×4 a contemporary semi-matte finish that is designed to help protect against everything from parking lot scratches to off-road brush and scrub scratches,” Land Rover explained. Suffice to say, the look is very modern, a European matt gray.

V8 at the heart of the Carpathian Edition

Introduced last year, and the heart of the flagship Carpathian Edition, the 5-liter supercharged V8 engine produces 518 horsepower and 461 pounds-feet of torque. The power travels through an eight-speed automatic transmission to the Land Rover full-time four-wheel-drive (4WD) system.

The Carpathian Edition comes with the new Dynamic program within the Terrain Response® system to allow the Defender driver to get the most out of the V8’s capabilities, again regardless of surface conditions.

Performance wise, the Defender 90 V8 can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds and has a top speed of just under 150 mph. More than enough power for any daily driving, all I needed to do was push on the accelerator pedal, and the Defender shot around traffic or merged onto the highway.

Fuel economy is representative of SUVs with large, powerful V8 engines. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates this Defender at 16 miles per gallon overall, 15 in urban and 19 in highway driving. My numbers were right with the EPA, about 16.5 mpg overall.

The platform supporting the Defender 90 Carpathian Edition features a four-wheel independent suspension system with double wishbone setup in the front and integral link in the rear. Damping and suspension control is managed by an electronic air system providing a terrific ride (better than most sport-utility vehicles, especially short-wheelbase ones like the Defender 90 – 101.9 inches; 170.2 in overall length).

The familiar Land Rover suspension layout uses all-new components to deliver world-class durability with new steel subframes and uprated ball joints and bushes that are designed to withstand several off-road impacts – the wheels can withstand up to seven tons of vertical load into the body.

As a result, the Defender delivers an unmatched breadth of capability, combining long-haul cruising comfort and rewarding handling characteristics with immediate responses and excellent off-road performance.

Bringing the Defender 90 to a halt is a power-assisted four-wheel disc system with anti-lock (ABS), which includes ventilated 14.9-inch rotors up front and ventilated 14.3 ones in the rear. Grabbing the rotors in front is a six-piston monobloc caliper, while a single-piston sliding fist with integrated electronic parking brake one operates at the rear.

ADAS fit for a flagship

The advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) begins with electronic-traction-control, dynamic-stability-control and roll-stability-control systems. Also included on the ADAS roster are automatic-emergency braking (AEB); emergency-brake assist; adaptive cruise control with stop & go and speed limiter; 3D surround camera; 360º parking assist; blind-spot assist; rear-traffic monitor; clear-exit monitor; land-keep assist, and traffic-sign recognition.

And the systems work seamlessly and as advertised – an excellent complement of driver aids.

Interior fit for a Queen

It is not a stretch to call the Land Rover Defender the favorite vehicle of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly after her 1953 coronation, Land Rover provided the Queen with a bespoke “State Review” vehicle for her tour of the Commonwealth. During her decades on the throne, the Queen was often seen piloting guests and her adored dogs around royal estates at the wheel of a Defender.

So, when I say the interior of the Carpathian Edition is fit for a Queen, I am confident this statement is more than hyperbole.

Comfortable without being ostentatious; functional without being crude and industrial; the interior provides a warm, enjoyable place for both short jaunts and long trips. The front heated/ventilated power-adjustable seats (with memory), like the rear seating surfaces, are leather covered.

The climate-control system has three zones which really allows for tailoring the occupants in this two-door SUV.

The Infotainment system revolves around the 11.4-inch touch screen, has wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto, navigation system and plays through a 700-Watt Meridian™ Surround Sound System.

A suitable royal flagship

The Land Rover Defender 90 Carpathian Edition sits at the top of the Defender range. As such, it is priced accordingly. The Defender 90 is offered in several models beginning with the four-cylinder 90S at $55,100 through the flagship V8 Carpathian Edition at $111,400. These are not inexpensive, mass-market SUVs, but luxurious, unique ones designed for heavy-duty off roading while delivering royal-level comfort, conveniences and amenities.

And the Land Rover Defender 90 Carpathian Edition delivers all of these in a refined, mannered package fit for a Queen.

Next week TBR Drives the Mazda MX-5 RF Miata.